During the recent ISDEF Premier International Defense and Homeland Security (HLS) Exhibition this week, United Hatzalah held a mass casualty incident (MCI) training drill in an effort to display Israel’s prowess at providing an immediate first response to large-scale emergencies to the attendees at the conference.   


As opposed to previous drills demonstrated by the organization, this drill was unique in that it allowed participants of the expo, who were primarily an international audience, to experience how Israeli EMS providers engage the community in order to tackle major terror attacks and provide national EMS response in less than 3 minutes.

Preparation for MCI drill
Preparation for MCI drill

The “victims” were students from a local boy’s school and had undergone a briefing of how to act as “injured persons”. To make the drill more realistic for EMS personnel and observers, the “patients” were made up by specialized trauma makeup artists.


As the drill began, Expo participants were invited to watch the scene unfold. At 10:40 a.m. on Wednesday morning, a “terrorist” initiated a simulated attack on a school that had been set up in the lobby of the Expo. Volunteer actors screamed and run in different directions, each being hurt by the simulated explosion and gunfire.

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Upon receiving notification of the incident, the dispatch center alerted nearby volunteer responders via the organization’s advanced phone application to the “emergency”.  At 10:41 a.m., the ‘terrorists’ were neutralized by security forces. At 10:42 a.m., the first volunteer EMS responder arrived. Shortly thereafter an additional 15 paramedics, EMTs, and doctors, all of whom are first responders, began pouring in. Treatment of “injured” patients at the scene began within three minutes, and responders were divided up by the central responder who had arrived first on the scene as they arrived. The first responder triaged patients and began sending other responders to treat the most urgent cases. All patients who were able to walk by themselves were urged to congregate in one location for treatment, while the more serious and immobile cases were treated where they lay.


At the same time as the medics were treating ‘physically injured’ children, United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma Crisis and Response Unit’s volunteers treated traumatized children who witnessed the ‘attack’. These patients were brought aside and supported by the Psychotrauma responders who employed all of the protocols developed by the PFA model as it has been adapted by the unit’s mental health professionals.

Psychotrauma Unit at the drill
Psychotrauma Unit at the drill

Pinny Azaria, an expo attendee and Israeli-born witness to the drill said that he was very impressed by the exercise and the professionalism it displayed. “This drill showed a good balance between being fake and real. The makeup portraying blood and severed limbs gave the scene a sense of gross realism. However, in my experience of actually being present in a real MCI, the absence of screaming and true chaos showed that this was indeed a drill. Either way, the response itself, as well as the response time, was highly commendable.” Pinny and his partner Sarah commented that “the ambucycle innovation is very impressive. It’s use and effectiveness in emergency situations reflects Israel’s “start-up nation” approach.”

A United Hatzalah volunteer EMT from Yavneh, Ishai Landsman, was one of the volunteers to ‘respond’ to the ‘emergency’. He explained that he was driving nearby when he first got a call that there was a terrorist attack in a boy’s school. He arrived within 90 seconds and when he walked into the scene, he saw many children spread out all over the floor, many of them had sustained severe injuries. He immediately called for more support. He triaged the patients he saw and began treating a young boy with a ‘severed’ left arm. Once the boy’s injuries were attended to he treated the teacher, a woman who sustained multiple severe injuries to her limbs.


Ishai said that he felt the drill succeeded in its goals of training the EMS responders while displaying the organization’s speed and versatility. “A drill is very different from a real causality experience because of its lack of true fear and chaos,” he said. “If it was a real MCI, I would have walked away with a lot of heavy feelings. In this scenario, I walked away knowing that we had accomplished our goal and it had gone well”.


Attendees as well as organizers of the exhibition who observed the drill said that they were duly impressed by the exercise and felt that it was a very educational and inspiring scene to behold.    

In addition to the drill, United Hatzalah maintained an interactive and informative booth at the exhibition for the entirety of the three-day event. The booth invited attendees to that revealed the organization’s technological innovations to interested parties at the exhibition.

Vice President of International Operations Dovie Maisel gave a public presentation after the drill on the topic of “The Paradigm Shift on The Community’s Role in Disaster Preparedness”. The presentation discussed the shift that has taken place over the last ten years in Israel and how community-based responders have played a major role in diminishing EMS response times.

The 8th annual ISDEF Expo was the largest defense and security exhibition ever to take place in Israel and took place between June 6th and 8th at the Tel Aviv Convention Center. It focused on the topic of creating unity and collaboration between defense and security forces by bringing together government and military officials, industry members, as well as medical and rescue services from Israel and abroad.